Staying alive: the women who are immune to Aids

From The Observer:

In the past 30 years Agnes has had unprotected sex with up to 2,000 infected men. Yet she and a small number of her fellow sex workers are still free from Aids. Stephanie Nolen travels to Majengo, a slum in Nairobi, to meet the extraordinary women and researchers who are changing the history of HIV

3 Comments

  1. I didn’t read the article but here’s my (possibly redundant) comment anyway. These women are called “long term non-progressors” due to the high amount of HIV exposure they receive, yet they do not experience the decimation of their helper T cells resulting in AIDS.

    Interestingly, if these women cease prostituting themselves for a while and then are exposed to HIV, they will progress to AIDS like the majority of those infected. It is thought that the large number of other STDs they encounter in their occupation might somehow confer a hyperactive immune response to HIV. If true, the mechanism behind this above-and-beyond-immunity remains unclear.

  2. The woman in the article never acquired HIV, so she’s not a “non-progressor”, as you described. In the absence of another STD or surface trauma, heterosexual transmission of HIV vaginal sex is very, very, very rare.

  3. I didn’t read the article but…

    Well… Better read the fucking article then, uh? As Derek said, these women never got HIV.

    I don’t think this is entirely unique, though. There was a PBS special or something, that focused on people who had survived the black plague — well, descendants of survivors. There was an isolated town in England, that had records of the thing, and they went over the records, and tracked down relatives of the survivors. And then they analyzed their genes or whatnot, and found that there was a specific genetic difference between them and most other people — that they thought had helped them, or allowed them to survive.

    And then they introduced a gay dude from San Francisco that lost just about every friend he knew, to AIDS — but he survived. And he had the same genetic difference as the one found amongst the black plague survivors.

    Evolution at work, baby.

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